Russia, Cuba, To Align On Cuban National Development Plan Needs To 2030

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Tourism, agriculture and luxury consumables among signiciant Cuba trade items to be developed

By Chris Devonshire-Ellis

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in Havana, last Thursday, the latest in a series of visits to Russia’s close allies in Latin America. The two countries have long been allies, with Cuba under US export sanctions for an incredible 63 years.

Lavrov mentioned this, saying that Russia and Cuba, both facing sanctions from the United States, understood one another. “We cannot agree that the world should continue to live permanently according to these American ‘rules,'” Lavrov said. “Tensions are being escalated in the international arena, and the West’s attempts to dictate its will and ignore the legitimate positions of others not only persist but are growing.”

In terms of trade and development, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said the discussions covered joint current projects and practical means for the participation of Russia in Cuba’s 2023-2030 Economic-Social Development Plan.

”We are ready to continue active cooperation to strengthen trade, economic and financial partnership.“ Lavrov listed energy, transport, industry, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, agriculture and tourism among important areas of cooperation.

Rodriguez stated that ”We will continue to encourage Russian regions to enter the promising Cuban market. We intend to establish cooperation in new formats.“ The two sides have already agreed to establish Joint Trade Promotional Offices in each others counties.

Other developments indicating bilateral trade will show substantial future improvement are that Cuba has joined the Eurasian Economic Union as an Observer nation – a status that will allow it access to other EAEU member states and ultimately, sign off a Free Trade Agreement. The EAEU is also discussing the establishment of a Special Economic Zone at Mariel Port. This will be attractive to Russian and Cuban manufacturers looking to export to other LatAm markets. Direct flights between Russia and Cuba recommenced late last year.

Cuban cigars are also highly popular in Russia, which unlike European and American cities has not introduced any smoking bans in bars, clubs and restaurants. Specific cigar lounges such as the Casa de Habanos outlet in Moscow have proved popular, with manager Riad Bou Karam saying Cuban cigar sales in Russia are strong. Cuban Rum is also popular in Russia with bespoke Rum-only bars such as St. Petersburg’s St.Martins Bar offering a huge variety of Caribbean Rums, cocktails and cuisine.

Bilateral trade figures are relatively small between the two countries at about US$250 million per annum, with 80% of that in Russia’s favor. Typical Russian products exported to Cuba include transport and power equipment, while Cuba exports sugar products, fruits and rum. Given the development of Russian investment into Cuba, the increase in tourism, and export trade development, it can be expected that Russian investments into real estate and support businesses for Russians in Cuba will begin to accelerate.

Lavrov’s visit will be followed by a further visit by Vyacheslav Volodin, the Chairman of the Russian Parliament’s lower chamber, who will pay a visit to Cuba in mid-May. Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel visited Russia last November.

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